Burgundy’s 2012 Roller Coaster

roller coasterMuch has already been written about Burgundy’s wild and difficult 2012 growing season and much more is still to come. In a nutshell, three main factors shaped the harvest in the Cotes du Nuits:

1) Poor fruit set – Winter and early spring warmth got the vines going early, late frost damaged some, and then rain during June flowering beat up the fragile bunches and led to fewer grapes being formed, and many of those that did set were smaller and thicker skinned, delivering less juice than usual.

2) Summer heat and rain – Cloudy weather and lots of rain created rot and mildew pressure and then – just as many growers finished pulling leaves to get their grapes whatever dry air and sunshine might be found – a heat spike sunburned many grapes. Once these grapes were removed, the crop got smaller still.

3) A Saving September – Good weather at last prevented gray rot from setting in and allowed those grapes that had survived the season – as few and small as they were – to ripen skins, seeds and stems perfectly at relatively low sugar levels and with vibrant acids.

In the end, perfect grapes … but not many
As the grapes came into the wineries in mid- to late-September, the hardworking vigneron found themselves at once depressed and elated. Depressed because their cellars had 30-40% less wine in them than normal. Elated because the grapes they did harvest were in perfect conditions and the young wines showed fantastic promise and classic style.

Tasting young 2012 reds at Domaine Guillon in January 2013 left me excited at the promise of the vintage. And, as various Burgundy experts have weighed in, that optimism seems well justified. Here are few comments from Allen Meadows (aka Burghound) about the best 2012 Cotes du Nuits reds:

The 2012s are concentrated wines with ripe and moderately firm supporting tannins, good freshness and enough acidity to maintain the proper balance. One of the more endearing characteristics of the vintage is that it produced very high phenolic maturities yet the sugars were only average. This is important because often when a vintage has high phenolic maturities the accompanying alcohols are above 13% and often even 14%. In 2012 the average range is between 12% and 13% which contributes to the heightened senses of freshness and drinkability.

2012 produced many really lovely wines that should provide for delicious drinking early on yet be capable of amply rewarding mid-term cellaring… Moreover there is fine transparency to the wines such that the underlying terroir is very much on display.   

All-in-all, an excellent vintage, writes Meadows, but with one big problem: Price. 

[T]here really isn’t much not to like about the vintage other than the tiny yields and what will almost inevitably be the high prices that accompany small quantities. … The key challenges for us as consumers will be twofold: the first is simply to find them and the second will be paying for them as they will not, indeed cannot, be inexpensive.

In a vintage where many consumers and retailers face skyrocketing prices and slashed allocations, we (and you!) benefit from a long-term relationship with Burgundy’s Jean-Michel Guillon through his hardworking US importer, Olivier Daubresse. Our allocation of Jean-Michel’s top wines (arriving this fall) was outstanding, and both Jean-Michel and Olivier held price increases down to the minimum level possible – even though Jean-Michel has orders for at least twice as much wine as he has to sell.

You’ll taste all the glorious results of Jean-Michel Guillon’s 2012 Bourgogne Rouge from his ‘Les Gravier’ vineyard –  at much less than you’d expect from other winemakers.

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